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Archuleta County voted for Trump. La Plata didn’t. Does politics affect vaccination rates?

Colorado counties that backed Biden more likely to have higher percentage of vaccinated residents
La Plata and Archuleta counties are ahead of the state when it comes to community vaccinations, but partisanship seems to play a role in vaccination rates. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP file)

Can politics and the way people vote – Trump vs. Biden – be an indicator of whether a person is more likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

The answer in Colorado appears to be yes.

The Colorado Sun this week compared counties that voted for Donald Trump with counties that voted for Joe Biden in 2020, and looked at their vaccination rates. Democratic-leaning counties had a higher percentage of vaccinated residents than those that voted for Trump, according to the analysis.

And the same holds true for the two counties in Southwest Colorado – Archuleta and La Plata – that make up San Juan Basin Public Health.

La Plata County, which voted for Biden in 2020, has made more progress vaccinating residents than Archuleta County, which voted for Trump.

La Plata County has vaccinated 51.1% of its total population compared with Archuleta County, which has vaccinated 44.8% of its population, according to SJBPH.

The difference is even greater when considering only eligible residents, those 12 and older. In that scenario, La Plata County has vaccinated about 64% of eligible residents with at least one dose, while Archuleta County has vaccinated 54.8%.

By comparison, Colorado has vaccinated 61.6% of eligible residents, meaning La Plata County is ahead of the state average and Archuleta County is below the state average.

Liane Jollon, director of SJBPH, put politics aside and focused on overall vaccination rates for both counties. It is remarkable, she said, that both counties have vaccinated more than 50% of their eligible populations.

“There are a lot of studies looking at demographics, like socioeconomics and politics, that indicate how far along a county would be in this,” Jollon said. “We are outperforming (those expectations) both in La Plata County and Archuleta County.

La Plata and Archuleta counties have some of the highest vaccination rates in Colorado. Both are in the top third when compared to the other 64 counties in the state.

La Plata and Archuleta vaccination rates are higher than average, in part, because of different incentive programs offered through the state and SJBPH, Jollon said. The state has its Comeback Cash program, local businesses are offering coupons and breweries, such as Ska Brewing Co. and Pagosa Brewing & Grill, are offering free drinks.

SJBPH has also pulled together a large network of vaccine providers and arranged clinics available every day.

“We have developed a pathway for success, but that success is really owned by the people coming out and getting vaccinated,” Jollon said.


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